Monthly Archives: June 2009

Salem Custom House (1819)

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The last in a series of 13 custom houses built in Salem since 1649, the Salem Custom House of 1819 is famous for being featured in the introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter (1850). Hawthorne worked in the Custom House for the U.S. Custom Service as Surveyor in 1846-1849. The building housed offices and an attached warehouse, the Public Stores, which contained bonded and impounded cargo. The structure was designed in the Federal style by Perley Putnam, a Weigher and Gauger for the U.S. Custom Service. A wooden eagle, carved by Salem craftsman Joseph True, was placed atop the Custom House in 1826. It was was replaced with a fiberglass replica in 2004. The Custom House is now a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

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West India Goods Store (1804)

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Typical of the waterfront commercial buildings of early nineteenth century Salem is the West India Goods Store on Derby Street. Now a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Store was built sometime between 1800 and 1815, probably around 1804, by the merchant, Captain Henry Prince, Sr., when he lived in the Derby House next door. Prince probably used it as a warehouse, its first documented use as a store being in 1836. The store actually sold goods from all over the world, the term “West India Goods Store” being a generic term for a store selling international goods. The building was altered many times over the years, being moved at one point from the left of the house to the right. It was restored by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in 1928 and was acquired by the Park Service in 1937. Today the Store sells items similar to those it would have sold in the nineteenth century.

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The Elias Hasket Derby House (1762)

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The Salem house of Elias Hasket Derby was built in 1762 and is the oldest surviving brick house in Salem. It was built by Richard Derby for his son on the occasion of Elias Hasket’s marriage to Elizabeth Crowninshield. Richard Derby had made his money through fishing and trade enterprises. During the Revolutionary War, Hasket converted many of the family’s cargo ships into privateers which preyed on British shipping. Wealth amassed from these activities later funded Derby’s involvement with the East India trade, which would make him America’s first millionaire. The house was sold in 1796 to another successful merchant, Captain Henry Prince, Sr., who built the West India Goods Store next to the house around 1800. After the Prince family left the home in 1827, it had other owners and was used as a tenement house for a time. In the early twentieth century, it was purchased and restored by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities and in 1937 was transferred to become part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

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Posted in Colonial, Houses, Salem | Tagged , | 1 Comment

51 Chestnut Street, Boston (1830)

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The house at 51 Chestnut Street, on Boston’s Beacon Hill, was built in 1830. It was the home of Rev. Charles Lowell, who was the pastor of West Church in Boston from 1806 to 1861. Rev. Lowell, who was the father of the poet, James Russell Lowell and grandfather of the Civil War General Charles Russell Lowell, later acquired and moved to Elmwood, a Georgian-style house in Cambridge.

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The Ames-Webster House (1872)

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The 1872 Mansard-roofed house of industrialist and congressman Frederick L. Ames, originally designed by Peabody and Stearns and located at the intersection of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Avenue, in Boston’s Back Bay, was significantly enlarged in 1882 by the architect, John Hubbard Sturgis. Sturgis had earlier designed the Gothic Revival-style Museum of Fine Arts building of 1876 and in the Ames House he worked in the English Queen Anne style. The expanded Ames Mansion, which was occupied for 90 years by the Ames and Webster families, features a two-level conservatory, large tower and chimney and porte-cochere. The interior is lavish, with stained glass by John La Farge and murals by Benjamin Constant. In 1972, the house was converted to serve as offices, a notable example of adaptive reuse.

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Boston Public Library (1895)

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Founded in 1848 by an act of the Massachusetts legislature and first opened in 1854, the Boston Public Library moved to its current building, on Copley Square, in 1895. Designed by Charles Follen McKim, of McKim, Mead, and White, the building (built 1887-1895) is modeled on the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo and is also influenced by Alberti’s San Francesco at Rimini, with an inner courtyard, based on the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. McKim’s Beaux Arts training led to the classicism of the Library building, influenced in particular by Henri Labrouste‘s Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (built 1843-1850) in Paris. This style would greatly influence the design of American public buildings in the following decades. The Boston Public Library, both inside and out, combines architecture with famous sculpture and mural painting. The neighboring Harvard Medical School building of 1883 was demolished and replaced by Philip Johnson‘s New Brutalist-style Library Addition in 1966 to 1972.

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Posted in Boston, Libraries, Neoclassical, Renaissance Revival | Tagged | 1 Comment